Harness the Power of Cumulative Effects
1/6/16 / Beth Mulligan
This week we’re all getting a fresh start with the new year. The start of a new year is one of several “fresh start” events (along with birthdays, 1st of the months, Mondays, and so on) throughout the year that provide motivation to embark on changes. New research shows we use these events to mentally distance ourselves from our past, less perfect, selves and decide we can be different moving forward.
At Corona we use the start of the year as an opportunity to take stock and make resolutions both personally and for the firm. But we’re in a unique position in that it’s part of our day-to-day jobs throughout the year to think about behavior change from a variety of angles:
- We design evaluations to measure behavior change outcomes that result from our clients’ interventions and campaigns to encourage and support behavior change (e.g., tobacco cessation, seatbelt wearing, teen pregnancy prevention, DUI prevention, increasing healthy behaviors, and many more).
- We conduct research to gather data about motivators and barriers to change to help clients develop behavior change interventions and campaigns.
- We provide strategic planning services to help clients take stock and set goals to move their organizations forward.
This year, as you think about the changes you’d like for yourself, your organization, or the groups you serve, think about cumulative effects. Many of the behaviors we seek to change are habits – behaviors that we make repeatedly and automatically. And our status at the end of the year is the result of adding up all of those actions throughout the year. Every time you choose fruit instead of candy, every time you suck it up and go to the gym instead of watching TV, every time you don’t light up that cigarette in the car, you’re adding a data point to your cumulative health status. Similarly, the choices you make for operations-as-usual within your organization will add up to your impact, your profitability, your employee engagement, etc.
Changing habits requires you to automate a new behavior to replace the undesirable one. Practice, practice, practice is the road to automation. At first it will take a lot of conscious effort to remember and apply the new behavior, but the more you do it, the more automated it will become. And before you know it, it will be the new normal and you/your org/your clients will be the better/happier/healthier/wealthier version you imagined.
Good luck with your resolutions for the new year! And if you need any help setting goals, gathering data, or measuring behavior change, we’re here to help!